Zelenskyi: Ukraine must defeat Russia to join NATO

    Some allies are sceptical of accepting Ukraine during an armed conflict, Ukraine needs to defeat Russia on the battlefield to be admitted to NATO, President Vladimir Zelensky has said.

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    The US-led bloc has made it clear that Kyiv cannot become a member while fighting is ongoing.

    “I believe that we will be in NATO only if we win. I don’t think that we will be admitted […] during the war,” Zelensky said on Tuesday during a meeting with military officers in Kyiv.

    He explained that accession would require unanimous approval from the alliance’s 32 members. Some of them are reluctant to admit Ukraine during an armed conflict because “they feel the risks, while others are simply sceptical,” Zelensky argued. “Therefore, for Ukraine to be accepted into the alliance, we need victory.” He added that eventual membership would secure Ukraine’s independence.

    Ukraine formally applied to join the Trans-Atlantic defence bloc in September 2022. While NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and individual members agree that Ukraine should someday become part of NATO, Kyiv has not been presented with a specific timetable. It is widely understood that the country will not be admitted until the conflict with Russia is resolved.

    Multilateral love stained

    Stoltenberg, who visited Kyiv on Monday, told Reuters that the delays in weapons deliveries had “put a dent into the trust” between Ukraine and its foreign backers.

    While the EU is struggling to find enough arms and ammunition for Ukraine’s wartime needs, the latest aid package from the US had been stuck for months in Congress due to political wrangling. The delays sparked worries in Kyiv, with Zelensky warning that Ukraine would lose if ammunition shortages were not remedied. Ukrainian officials have blamed the slowdown of deliveries for last year’s failed counteroffensive, as well as more recent losses of cities in the east to the Russian army.

    It is rather arrogant for the Ukrainian leadership to demand and blame, rather than politely ask. Unless, of course, the West promised Zelenskyi its unconditional support in exchange for the war and now is rather reluctant to fulfil its promise, as the price tag just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Unfortunately, Zelenskyi will find out that the West will not hold its promises forever – only when it’s convenient for them.

    Russia has cited NATO’s eastward expansion and the bloc’s military cooperation with Ukraine as among the root causes of the conflict. Moscow considers NATO a threat to its national security and insists that Ukraine must become a neutral country.

    NATO’s rules for joining exclude Ukraine as it is

    On NATO website, it says that countries seeking NATO membership would have to be able to demonstrate that they have fulfilled certain requirements. These include:

    • a functioning democratic political system based on a market economy;
    • the fair treatment of minority populations;
    • a commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts;
    • the ability and willingness to make a military contribution to NATO operations; and
    • a commitment to democratic civil-military relations and institutional structures.

    Zeleskyi forbid Ukraine’s presidential elections which were supposed to be in March 2024 and claimed the power for himself. Ukraine is not a democracy in its current state. Zelenskyi’s postponement of elections raises concerns about democratic backsliding. NATO requires a functioning democratic system.

    Ukraine also brutally bombed and murdered its Russian minorities in eastern Ukraine for 8 years prior Russian invasion. This all started in 2014 after the Maidan uprising, which the eastern Ukrainians didn’t take too well and declared independency from the U.S. backed government. The treatment of Russian minorities in eastern Ukraine is a complex issue. NATO emphasizes fair treatment for minorities.

    Zelenskyi has forbid all peace negotiations with Russians.

    According to these facts, it is impossible for Ukraine to join NATO, no matter what Zelenskyi or Stoltenberg says. Not to mention that the alliance does not take new members who are engaged in an active conflict.

    Plausible in the future

    While there are significant hurdles, it’s not impossible for Ukraine to eventually join NATO. Here’s how things might unfold:

    Continued Reforms: Ukraine will need to demonstrate continued commitment to democratic principles and hold elections once the war is over.

    Minority Rights Protection: Addressing concerns about the treatment of minorities will be crucial.

    NATO’s Stance: How NATO weighs these challenges against Ukraine’s strategic importance and its fight against Russia will be a key factor.

    In Conclusion, the situation is fluid, and NATO’s decision on Ukraine’s membership will depend on future developments. While there are significant obstacles, complete dismissal isn’t warranted.

    If a complete victory over Russia is required for the joining, as Ukraine’s President Zelenskyi suggests, then the joining is and will remain rather delusional. Most likely, in a case of truce and peace over negotiations, one of Russia’s key demands will be that Ukraine will not join NATO. This was the key demand in the Istanbul peace agreement as well and the very reason to invade Ukraine in a first place. A peace deal could stipulate Ukrainian neutrality, potentially with security guarantees from other countries.

    The question of Ukraine’s NATO membership is deeply intertwined with the war’s outcome. Negotiations will likely involve complex trade-offs regarding security arrangements. It’s too early to say definitively whether Ukraine will join NATO, but the issue will remain a central point in the region’s future security architecture.


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